“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, psychiatrist
Talented, beautiful and young, at age 25, Rabi Yim Chor-Pik's life took a devastating turn two years after returning to Hong Kong from studying Visual Communication in Paris.
“Before … I had so many plans for my career … earn more money and live in a bigger house. Very stereotypical mind! I just thought of myself or family, but did not really think of the society.”
It all changed when Rabi’s friend who was driving her fell asleep at the wheel. The resulting accident may have left Rabi a quadriplegic, but fortunately she quickly regained the use of her upper limbs.
“It was unexpected. After the accident, I initially had to rely on somebody else for everything. I needed to ask and wait for somebody. I wanted to restart my life and I saw some good examples like in handicapped sports. I saw people who trained very well in a wheelchair and I imagined that I could be independent using wheelchairs.”
An active champion for female and disability rights, Rabi serves as a member of the Women's Commission in Hong Kong, as well as a Vice Chairperson of the Direction Association for the Handicapped.
“Compared to other countries like Australia, you can see the difference. Hong Kong is not very barrier-free. There are many steps and it is very crowded. I thought I was the only voice in the society and I felt very alone. Then I found this organisation and thought we could group together and voice something to the government and change the policy towards people with disabilities.”
As of April 2014 she became the founder of a social enterprise for people with disabilities, buoyed by funding from DBS. The Direction Association helps people with disabilities acquire support, as well as seek accommodation in land-scarce Hong Kong. Bucking the stigma of beggars looking for handouts, the association also enables its beneficiaries to engage in meaningful employment.
This includes working in the social enterprise arm of Direction Association, where they can join RPM Workstation which handles design-related matters like coding and illustration. The company was established following Rabi's own challenges striving to attain employment which took into consideration both her physical state and intellectual needs.
Beneficiaries could also help train corporate clients and schools in improving what Rabi calls “AQ”, or their “Adversity Quotient”. With more individuals seeking counselling for stress-related problems, this is a much-needed skill set that can be taught by anybody, disabilities notwithstanding.
DBS backed the project, sensing a need ignored or not addressed in Hong Kong society, but apart from monetary assistance the bank also provided training and exposure to the company with promotions at various fairs at the Hong Kong Convention Centre. The corporate backing boosted the outreach of the cause in a country where disability awareness is still lagging far behind.
With DBS' support, the social enterprise was additionally able to provide an alternative form of employment to at least ten individuals with disabilities. Rabi hopes to expand her cause, or at least inspire more people, newly disabled or not.
“I would also encourage them that although they think it's a 'loss of life', I can tell them I'm an example. Even if you're in your own wheelchair, you still have your life. You still live the same way. You can still have your career. You can still live more happily. Yeah it’s only a different style of life.”
Fifteen years after her accident, Rabi’s joyful demeanour is living proof of her belief. – AsiaForGood
[Photography by: David Lalanne]
If you want to find more about socially conscious living in Asia, check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.
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